Glasgow is Scotland's largest and most vibrant city. Yes Edinburgh has its festival and Hogmanay celebrations but Glasgow is a buzz all year round. It's reputed to be the UK's best shopping destination outside London with both high street retailers and haute couture fashion houses found side by side on the city's bustling Buchanan Street. If you like a song and dance then Glasgow's lively music scene will set you rocking with tremendous venues putting on some of the biggest and best names in the business. Theatre business is big here too with something worthwhile to see most nights. And if you're happy with just a quiet drink and a tasty meal you'll be pleased to hear there's a great selection of good restaurants and atmospheric bars.
Milngavie (pronounced Mill-guy) is an affluent suburb situated in the north of Glasgow. It's 15 minutes away from Glasgow airport by car and 25 minutes by train from the city centre. Although not a holiday destination in itself considerable numbers of tourists, probably more than 30,000, pass through the town each year. This is because Milngavie is the traditional starting point for one of the world's most famous long distance walking trails - the West Highland Way. Within a 5 minute stroll from the train station lie the gates to this fabulous route. Walkers, cyclists and runners gather here to be photographed before undertaking their great journey.
Although our route barely glances the outskirts of Killearn we felt given its historic significance as the birthplace of George Buchanan that it was worth mentioning. The attractive village sits on the edge of a moor overlooking the confluence of the Blane and Endrick Valleys. A one-time farming village today it serves as an affluent satellite of Glasgow. It’s most famous son George Buchanan, born in 1506, was a prominent Scottish scholar and tutor to King James VI of Scotland who later became King James I of England and Ireland also. James was the first monarch to rule all three kingdoms simultaneously. He also ruled over Wales at this time but technically Wales is a principality. A 31metre tall monument has been erected in Buchanan’s name near the village Kirk and can be seen from miles around. A detour into the village would add roughly two miles or just over three kilometres to your journey.
Drymen is a relatively small village nestling just a few miles from the shores of Loch Lomond. It sits at a crossroads of the ways. The West Highland Way passes through the village while the Rob Roy Way starts here and the John Muir Way passes by only a couple of miles away. Despite it's size, Drymen is a lively wee place, supporting two hotels and numerous bed and breakfasts. With friendly bars and good quality eateries it's a popular haunt for locals and tourists alike.
Aberfoyle, often referred to as the ‘Gateway to the Trossachs’, is a pleasant and peaceful village situated at the foot of the Menteith Hills and amidst the vast Queen Elizabeth Forest Park. The hills are particularly significant because they mark the line of the Highland Boundary Fault which runs through the island of Arran on the west coast to Stonehaven on the east coast and separates the Highlands from the Lowlands. Another prominent feature of the village is the River Forth that runs through its centre before winding its way across a vast flood plain to Stirling and then Edinburgh where it enters the North Sea. The village is busy through the day with day trippers but generally quiet later in the evening. However, there are still enough customers buzzing about to ensure the couple of inns providing food and one or two café/restaurants remain open.
Like Aberfoyle just over the hill, Callander straddles the divide between the Highlands and Lowlands. It sits just beyond the eastern tip of the beautiful Loch Venachar at the foot of the forested Menteith Hills. It’s the largest village in the Trossachs and supports numerous hotels, B&B’s, restaurants and bars and is busy most of the year round. The centre of Callander is distinctly Victorian with many of that eras more substantial villas now operating as small hotels or guesthouses. However, many remain as family homes in this relatively affluent town. The River Teith runs right through the villages’ heart providing a particularly pleasant outlook for well placed residences on its banks and sport in the form of fishing and canoeing. Another great site from the village is that of Ben Ledi, a magnificent looking hill and one reasonably easy as well as pleasing to climb.
The conservation village of Comrie sits at the confluence of three rivers in what is an indescribably idyllic setting. Famed for its beauty the settlements history can be traced back to Pictish times with much visible evidence of standing stones in the area. And in 79AD the Romans built a fort here in order to take advantage of the locations strategic position on the edge of the Highlands. Comrie is also of great geological interest due to the fact that it sits along the Highland Boundary Fault. And as a result is the most seismically active place in the United Kingdom recording more tremors than anywhere else. Now an attraction it is possible to visit Earthquake House one of the world’s earliest earthquake monitoring centres.
On the outskirts of Comrie there is an old military camp, Cultybraggan, which was used during the Second World War to house prisoners of war. The site is now owned by the community trust and is used for various things including growing vegetables.
Round and about Comrie there are some great cycling and walking opportunities including a good choice of riverside walks, woodland walks and hill walks and both on and off-road cycling routes. Comrie Croft just over two miles away has its’ very own mountain bike trail and a short hop away Glen Lednock affords walkers access to Ben Chonzie.
Crieff is one of Scotland’s historic spa towns and like near neighbour Comrie sits at the confluence of productive rivers while straddling the Highland Boundary Fault. I say productive rivers because one is currently utilised for whisky production and the other used to power local mills. An affluent market town Crieff first grew rich as a cattle trading centre during the fourteen hundreds and later became a prominent player in the weaving industry. Nowadays it’s a popular tourist destination offering visitors a huge choice of things to do.
Set amidst some very attractive countryside Crieff sits on the boundary between the Lowlands and Highlands. These two contrasting landscapes greatly complement each other while offering outdoor adventurers everything from delightful riverside walks to full on mountaineering. There are two golf courses, a high ropes course, a distillery, quiet back roads ideal for road cycling and some excellent single-track for mountain bikers. Macrosty Park is great for young kids and there’s also a good adventure play area at Crieff Hydro.